¡Confluencia! Songs of Ourselves
November 19–22, 2020
Workshops: November 19
ALAN Workshop & CEL Convention: Nov. 22–24
Colorado Convention Center, Denver, CO
I have loved the word confluencia for at least 30 years. Its English translation—confluence—also rolls off the tongue. A confluencia is literally the merging of waters—the junction of two rivers. But a confluence is, of course, figurative too: the joining and/or reunion of ideas, genres, philosophies, songs, genders, cultures, heritage, ethnicities, regions, terrains, wafts, teachers and students of English, pedagogies. Coincidentally, I have for many years been drawn to Whitman’s “Song of Myself,” Section 16:
I am of old and young, of the foolish as much as the wise . . .
Maternal as well as paternal . . .
Stuff’d with the stuff that is coarse and stuff’d with the stuff that is fine . . .
A Southerner soon as a Northerner . . .
A Kentuckian walking . . . in my deer-skin leggings . . .
a Hoosier, Badger, Buckeye . . .
At home on the hills of Vermont or in the woods of Maine, or the Texan ranch,
Comrade of Californians, comrade of free North-Westerners . . .
A learner . . . a teacher . . .
Of every hue and caste am I, of every rank and religion
A farmer, mechanic, artist . . . sailor. . .
lawyer, physician, priest.
This is a call for proposals to the confluent 2020 NCTE Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado. Students, teachers, literary works, research, student writing, pedagogies, activism, languages, cultures, and regions will pour into Denver. As you compose your proposal, please consider the following questions/ideas:
- How are the students and their work in our classrooms a confluence of ideas?
- How are the literary works we select for our classes confluent?
- How are our school communities a confluence of cultures and languages?
- How can digital tools create a healthy conduit of information?
- How are ELA teachers/professors/educators themselves a confluence of experience and pedagogy?
- How is teacher research confluent?
- How is literacy itself a confluence?
- How are the confluences in your classrooms agitated, calm, or both?
- How do we invite prospective teachers—those new to the profession—to sing their songs?
- Most important—the “why” of our work—how do we arouse the songs of our students?
When our bodies, spirits, and ideas flow into Denver, let us swirl in our own literacies and the literacies we churn. We are a confluencia of our songs. Let’s read, write, speak, listen, and view with curiosity. Our 2020 Convention will be as calm or as agitated as our intellects allow.
The Story of How I Arrived at This Theme
I have recently had a series of serendipitous experiences with the word confluencia. Sheena Chakeres, a friend/colleague from Santa Fe Prep, invited me to participate in her EE Ford Teachers’ Colloquium during the summer of 2019: “Confluencia: An Exploration of Converging Cultures in Northern New Mexico.” The coincidence was that I had been thinking of Confluencia as a theme for the 2020 NCTE Annual Convention. In thinking about both the colloquium and the Convention, I wanted to make sure I had the correct meaning of the word, so I looked it up. I had first seen it decades ago in the title of a northern New Mexican quarterly: La Confluencia. When I googled it, I also found that the University of Northern Colorado prints a journal titled Confluencia. Yup, I had the meaning right, and the example the electronic dictionary gave of a confluence was the merging of the Monongahela and Allegheny Rivers at Pittsburgh to form the Ohio. Well, dang, by yet another happenstance, in a couple of weeks I’d be attending the CCCC Annual Convention in Pittsburgh, where I’d witness mentor Cheryl Glenn, professor at Penn State University, receive her Exemplar Award. I had assisted Cheryl when she was director of the Bread Loaf School of English in Santa Fe. I would also be having a meal with Bread Loaf colleague and hiking buddy Jacki Weaver in Pittsburgh. I immediately texted Jacki and told her of the confluence example in the dictionary and said I’d love to walk down to where the rivers meet. We did that.
The next day I came across fellow Latinx Caucus member and confidant Renee Moreno. We exchanged digits and said we’d have to sit, chat, catch up. That’s always challenging at a conference because everyone’s on the move. As it turned out, I was able to meet with Renee and compadres Juan and Diane Guerra for a nightcap. We chatted about Denver, Corky Gonzales (I Am Joaquin/Yo Soy Joaquín), the Civil Rights Movement, and the theme for the Denver Convention. I told them about all the coincidences connecting confluencia, and that Kathy Whitmore, my Executive Committee colleague, had said I must include an inverted exclamation point in my theme; this would blend two languages in the title. Food for thought. I had asked Latinx sisters Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens, Tracey Flores, Lorena Germán, Julia Torres, and Aurelia Dávila de Silva what they thought about the exclamation point. Bobbi advised, and the others agreed: Don’t just throw the inverted exclamation point in for decoration or inclusion. It has to have a purpose. At breakfast that morning, NCTE’s Executive Director Emily Kirkpatrick had asked, “Does the inverted exclamation point subordinate the Spanish you’re trying to include?” Smart question.
Over our nightcap I also told Renee, Juan, and Diane that I had been thinking about section 16 of Whitman’s “Song of Myself” as a theme because it fits with I Am Joaquin and Denver. I said I had first thought of something like “Celebrating Our Heritage” for a Convention theme but thought it sounded too blah. They quickly agreed. And because the word celebrating has become cliché, I thought “Singing Our Selves” might be more catchy. But it didn’t quite flow, so on a scrap of paper (a receipt), we began jotting ideas and finally came up with “Confluencia: Song of Ourselves.” Juan and Renee said the inverted exclamation point would be grammatically correct with the Spanish word confluencia. Juan then suggested making Song plural to emphasize the coming together of all NCTE members’ songs in Denver. Renee added that there is a literal confluencia in Denver, where Cherry Creek and the South Platte River become one. Bingo! I went to bed that night with all those ideas in mind. When I woke up the next morning, I thought, a confluence/confluencia doesn’t really exclaim; it’s fluid, babbling, calm. I considered dropping the exclamation point. I emailed Cheryl and told her about my reservation—that the word does not really exclaim. She wrote, “But sometimes confluences are loud and agitated.” Yes!
NCTE has for more than thirty years been my professional convergence zone. I’ll never forget my rookie year when as a member I began receiving the invaluable English Journal and Council Chronicle and then witnessed best practices by attending concurrent sessions at the 1987 Convention in Los Angeles, where more experienced ELA teachers mentored me and encouraged me to submit a proposal. NCTE is where concepts, theories, and in-the-trenches teaching and collaboration have helped me grow as a professional. I encourage early career teachers, those at mid-career, and veteran teachers to join and participate—submit a proposal. Come to where the rivers meet in Denver, and jump in.
The above narration of my serendipitous confluencia word history demonstrates that it has taken a confluence of friends, colleagues, ideas, languages, philosophies, opinions, literary works, and reflection to arrive at the 2020 theme. Let us sing:
Songs of Ourselves
Alfredo Celedón Luján
2020 Program Chair
- Use this online form to submit your proposal.
- The NCTE online proposal system will close at 11:59 p.m. EST, Wednesday, January 15, 2020.
- For more information about proposal specifics, please click here.
- Find answers to frequently asked questions related to proposals here.
Dates and Deadlines:
- Friday, December 6, 2019: Deadline to request an online coach for proposals (requests should be made via the option within the proposal system)
- Wednesday, January 15, 2019, 11:59 p.m. EST: Deadline to submit proposals for NCTE 2020
- Tuesday, March 31, 2020: Notifications of acceptance/decline are sent by email
- Monday, June 1, 2020: Deadline to accept all invitations to present
- Monday, September 28, 2020: Deadline for all program participants to register for the Convention and be included in the print program